Thursday, December 15, 2005


I finally got around to seeing "Capote" last night. Very good film.

It was a fairly astonishing performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman, first off. There are almost no scenes in the film he's not in, and he definitely carries the weight of the movie without a problem. Really good work. I also always like the woman who played Harper Lee, Catherine Keener. Anyway.

What knocked me off my feet about Capote was the sheer range of issues it brought forth, without being preachy or overly arty. The most obvious thing the film does is create a portrait of Capote himself. This is done in a painterly fashion, with a natural feeling but very calculated selection of details and incidents, showing how Capote treated people close to him, strangers, and those who thought they were in one group but actually were in the other, which is a larger number than realized it.The only scene in the whole film that set off my "SUBTLETY VIOLATION" alarms is toward the end of the film, when an unknown audience member makes his way backstage to share his opinion of Capote's reading. I don't feel like I learned anything about Capote I didn't already get from this particular scene, but in the horse-trading that goes on to make a film, it may have been kept to insure some other more quiet moment was left alone. Overall, the point-counterpoint shown in his relations with others was in fact a genuinely nuanced bit of storytelling, and very human, and humane.

The film (for those who've not already seen it) drops into Capote's life during the four years in which he researched his big book, "In Cold Blood", a kind of non-fiction novel. This has a lot of resonance for me as someone who's worked on a decent number of social issue documentary films. So to wrap up a little here, there's a bit of meditation on the subject-observer relationship in art, on whether it's proper to affect the lifes of those portrayed, some small observations about the nature of justice in America, concerns of profesional jealousy, issues of balance regarding the lives of a man versus the good of Man, and also a few good tips on outfits and mixed drinks. 10 thumbs up. Go see it.

(Incidentally, before he wrote In Cold Blood, Capote wrote Breakfast at Tiffanys, which is one of my favorite movies and a book that was even better - a bit sharper and less broad.)

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